March 2, 2011

This is the third instalment of my series about the most-loved and least-understood of the great social networks, Twitter.

One of the things that makes Twitter difficult for new users is that it has a web interface. And it’s pretty clunky.

Like Outlook for email, a lot of software applications have sprung up that make Twitter much easier to use.

One of the most popular is Tweetdeck. Tweetdeck is a “social dashboard” which lets you organise all of your social network accounts in one place on your desktop, including Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Foursquare, and Google Buzz. You can set up searches, lists, mentions, direct messages, and these are all updated automatically in real time. You can schedule tweets to send out throughout the day, and you can manage multiple Twitter accounts. And it’s free. Download it here: http://www.tweetdeck.com/desktop/

Hootsuite:

If you want to benefit from the dashboard that Tweetdeck gives you, but you prefer a web-based interface, try Hootsuite. I use Hootsuite myself.

Flipboard:

Now for something really cool: Flipboard. Some say Flipboard heralds the death of the newspaper. You need an iPad to use it. It’s hard to explain it without seeing it, so watch this video:

URL shorteners:

One of the problems with Twitter is that you only get 140 characters to express yourself, which doesn’t leave much room if you want to put big long website links in your tweets. To solve this problem, a whole lot of URL shortener services have appeared. Twitter itself uses bit.ly to shorten any URL to a tiny little one.

For example, the URL for this article:

http://www.fruitbowl.co.nz/technology/how-to-make-twitter-come-alive-with-3rd-party-tools/

can be shortened to:

http://bit.ly/eemnoD

Try it yourself by visiting www.bit.ly.

(Just a thought: bit.ly is a Libyan domain, so it’s technically under Libyan jurisdiction, and if you’ve been watching the news lately, you would have noticed that Libya is going through “interesting times” right now. Hmmm… Maybe Twitter will need to switch to another URL shortening service soon.)

Photos and videos:

People love sharing photos and videos (maybe because most of us “can’t read or write good?”). I think photos and videos are one of the main reasons why Facebook is so popular compared to Twitter. But there are some easy ways to share photos and videos on Twitter, including Twitpic and Yfrog. Most Twitter clients like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite allow you to upload photos and videos. If you’re not using a Twitter client, you can simply visit the Twitpic or Yfrog website to upload your files.

OK. So now you’re fully tooled up to make the most of Twitter. Good luck and happy tweeting.

Like any communication medium, you need a strategy and a consistent approach to make Twitter work for your business. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need help.

And if you’re using something better than what I’ve got here, let us know!